The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic consisting of two main islands, East Falkland and West Falkland, and a number of smaller islands. Port Stanley, the capital and largest city, is on East Falkland. They are administered as a largely self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom.
Argentina claims the islands and invaded them in 1982, leading to the Falklands War, in which they were reclaimed by the UK. Argentina calls the islands by their Spanish name, Islas Malvinas and uses Malvinas Islands as their English name. Argentina considers them part of the Province of "Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e islas del Atlántico Sur".
Main article: History of the Falkland Islands
The Dutch sailor Sebald de Weert is usually credited with first sighting the Falklands in 1600, though both the British and Spanish maintain their own explorers discovered the islands earlier. Some older maps, particularly Dutch ones, used the name 'Sebald Islands' for a while. The history of exploration is as follows:
In the eighteenth century, Louis de Bougainville (France) founded a naval base at Port Louis, East Falkland in 1764. The French named them the Îles Malouines, so-called from when the islands were briefly occupied by fishermen from St Malo. Ignorant of de Bougainville's presence, John Byron (Great Britain) established a base at Port Egmont, West Falkland in 1765. In 1766, France sold its base to Spain. Spain declared war on Great Britain in 1770 in a fight over the islands but the dispute was settled the following year, with Spain retaining East Falkland and Great Britain West Falkland.
They remained practically unsettled until the 19th century. Argentina set up a penal colony in the islands in 1820, and in 1829 named Luis Vernet as the islands' governor, in order to colonise them. The United Kingdom invaded the islands in 1833, but Argentina maintained its claim. Various tensions led to an Argentine invasion in 1982. The islands were later retaken by the UK. See: Falklands War.
No native people lived in the islands when the Europeans arrived, although there is some disputed evidence for earlier human visits. The most convincing is the Falkland Island fox, or Warrah, possibly descended from South American culpeo used as hunting dogs by Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego. It is unlikely that it reached the islands by itself. Abundant when the islands were settled by Europeans, it was considered a nuisance to livestock and hunted to extinction.
Main article: Politics of the Falkland Islands
Executive authority comes from the Queen and is exercised by the governor on her behalf. Defence is the responsibility of the UK. There is a constitution, which was put into force in 1985. Under the constitution, eight Legislative Councillors, five from Stanley and three from Camp, are elected every four years.
The Executive Council, which advises the Governor, consists of the Chief Executive, Financial Secretary and three Legislative Councillors, which are elected by the other Legislative Councillors. Executive concil is chaired by the Governor. The Legislative Council consists of Chief Executive, Financial Secretary and the eight Legislative Councillors. Legislative council is presided over by the Speaker of the House, currently Mr LG Blake.
The loss of the war against Britain over control of the islands led to the collapse of the Argentine military dictatorship in 1983. Disputes over control of the islands still continue. In 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the first to visit Argentina since the war. On the 22nd anniversary of the war, Argentina’s President Néstor Kirchner gave a speech insisting that the islands would once again be part of Argentina. Kirchner, since becoming president in 2003, has made the islands a top priority. In June 2003 the issue was brought before a United Nations committee, and attempts have been made to open talks with Britain to resolve the issue of the islands. The Falkland Islanders themselves are almost entirely British, and maintain their alliegance to the United Kingdom.
Map of the Falkland Islands
Main article: Geography of the Falkland Islands
The islands are 300 miles (483 km) from the South American mainland.There are two main islands, East Falkland (Soledad) and West Falkland (Gran Malvina) and about 700 small islands. The total land area is 12,173 km².
Islanders themselves talk about two main areas of the islands, namely Stanley and the rest which they nickname "the Camp", from the Spanish "campo" meaning "countryside".
Main article: Economy of the Falkland Islands
The largest industries are fishing and agriculture. The islands have oil reserves that are believed to be quite substantial, but yet to be exploited
Main article: Demographics of the Falkland Islands
The population is 2,967 (July 2003 estimated).
Islanders call themselves "Islanders". Outsiders often call Islanders "Kelpers", from the kelp, which grows profusely around the islands, but the name is not used in the Islands any more. The word kelper is used in Argentina with the meaning of second-class citizens as a reflection on the legal status of the islanders within the UK prior to the passing of the Nationality Act of 1983.
Main article: Culture of the Falkland Islands
Last updated: 10-16-2005 09:06:30